One of Those Little Things

As an indicator of where the zeitgeist is regarding waterboarding, I do find it instructive that when I made a waterboarding joke in the previous entry, there were quickly a couple of comments along the line of “well, no one deserves waterboarding,” followed by some sort of suggestion of another form of torture for humorous affect. Meaning, I suspect, waterboarding is having a “too soon?” moment, where where it’s just not funny, partly because most people seem to believe it’s actually torture, except the administration, and it’s vaguely embarrassing to have the President and all his pals not know what all the rest of us do.

Of course, a large chunk of the population also is iffy on evolution, so just because most people think things are one way or another (or don’t think it’s one way or another) doesn’t make it so. In all cases it helps to have an expert opinion. Here’s one on the subject: a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California, who is quite intimate on the details of waterboarding, because he’s performed it hundreds of times for training purposes. He says waterboarding is, well, torture:

There is No Debate Except for Torture Apologists

1. Waterboarding is a torture technique. Period. There is no way to gloss over it or sugarcoat it. It has no justification outside of its limited role as a training demonstrator. Our service members have to learn that the will to survive requires them accept and understand that they may be subjected to torture, but that America is better than its enemies and it is one’s duty to trust in your nation and God, endure the hardships and return home with honor.

2. Waterboarding is not a simulation. Unless you have been strapped down to the board, have endured the agonizing feeling of the water overpowering your gag reflex, and then feel your throat open and allow pint after pint of water to involuntarily fill your lungs, you will not know the meaning of the word.

I’ve not been waterboarded personally — call it a quirk of mine not to want it for myself — but I’m willing to believe this guy probably knows what he’s talking about, possibly more than others, including the people who maintain it’s not really torture. When a guy who trains soldiers to handle torture says something is torture, it’s worth giving credence to that particular data point. Although I suspect some people won’t. I think that’s kind of funny.

71 thoughts on “One of Those Little Things

  1. It’s torture. I really don’t see how anyone can see it as anything other than torture. Nor can I understand how anyone in their right mind could possibly condone a torture method yanked out of the Catholic playbook during the freakin’ Inquisition. You’d think mankind, and this damn administration, would kind of want to distance themselves from that, wouldn’t you? Then again, maybe that’s what these idiots mean when they bark that America is a Christian nation. Makes sense, I suppose…

    I’m of the mind that Bush & Co. derive the same sort of sick, sadistic pleasure from the knowledge that they’ve got this sort of power to inflict these horrors upon a fellow human being that a garden-variety rapist does.

  2. God. This is the first time I’ve heard about waterboarding. Every time I come out of my cave to find out stuff about the World, I regret it.

    Every time I think I cannot be more ashamed of being American, something like this turns up.

    And the CIA planes also landed in Spain, so there’s not much pride to be had on that side either.

  3. Yeah, I think waterboarding is having a “too soon” moment; pulling out nails would have been much funnier. What I find embarrassing is that the person who quite likely will be our next Attorney General isn’t sure it’s torture and thinks it might be permissible despite a 200 year precedent of it being prosecuted as a WAR CRIME.

  4. This is sick stuff.

    On an inappropriate related note: I have had no less than 5 swirlies. For those who don’t know, it’s when someone or a group of someone shoves a fella’s head into a toilet and flushes it. They aren’t a simulation either. And, though I don’t think they can be considered torture, they are gross.

  5. The objections to the proposition that waterboarding is torture seem to break down into four categories:

    1. “OMG WTF 9/11!!!!” (In other words, who cares, we are at war, etc.)
    2. “It doesn’t cause permanent physical harm.” (Even assuming that to be true for the moment, I don’t think that disqualifies it as torture, for reasons that are a separate lengthy discussion.)
    3. “It’s not that bad because this soldier/that blogger/that journalist had it done to him and was fine.” Right, except that person knew it was fake. That’s like saying whipping is not torture because I like to be whipped and just use the safe word if it goes too far. Plus, some people have undergone it and reached the opposite conclusion. (See link below)
    4. “Ha ha ha! You pussy!” The attack on the “manhood” of the torture victims/complainers is regrettably common. Apparently real men laugh off simulated drowning.

    There was a recent thread about this over at the Volokh Conspiracy discussing a DoJ official who subjected himself to waterboarding and concluded that it was torture (and was forced out by Gonzales as a result, according to ABC). All of the above typical responses are in evidence in that thread.

  6. Wow, you really let the torture proponents off easily. Nance’s third point (linked into your post) was the most relevant:

    If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives.

    Maybe that’ll get some of the torture supporters to back off.

    I doubt it, mind you, but one can hope…..

  7. I thought I heard on NPR, yesterday morning, that Mukasey wouldn’t admit that waterboarding is torture because it would open the government up to lawsuits. However, I don’t remember if this is something he said, if this was commentary, or if I’ve completely misremembered.

    Certainly, it seems like he’s doing this to protect the administration.

  8. I’ve heard waterboarding repeatedly referred to as ‘simulated drowning’ (including Ex-Fed above). From what I have read, though, it’s not simulated drowning at all. It is actual slow drowning. Big difference.

    I think the same people who gave us terms like ‘death tax’ and ‘tax relief’ also thought up ‘simulated drowning.’ And like those other examples, they’ve been successful at changing the frame of the debate toward their favor.

  9. From what I have read, though, it’s not simulated drowning at all. It is actual slow drowning. Big difference.

    I think the same people who gave us terms like ‘death tax’ and ‘tax relief’ also thought up ’simulated drowning.’

    At least ’simulated drowning’ comes a little closer to describing what it is. When I first heard the term ‘waterboarding,’ I thought it sounded like it was a recreational activity, akin to snowboarding or skateboarding.

  10. The American government prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding prisoners of war.
    So what this Administration is attempting to sell us is that it was bad when the Japanese did it. But okay now!
    Isn’t that special.

  11. The real lesson to be learned is this:

    If we do it = not torture
    If it is done to us = torture

    Simple, right?

  12. I wonder if we could get Congress to pass a law that says that any government employee who says, on the record, that waterboarding – or any other “interrogation technique” – is not torture should be immediately subjected to it on live television. Then, they’d be credible. Until then, they’re just fools.

  13. Either way, I think your use of it was entertaining and appropriate. It’s a fair reaction to want to torture the critic who tortured you with his review.

    Is it ok to taser him while he’s being waterboarded?

  14. # Patrick M. Says:
    November 6th, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Is it ok to taser him while he’s being waterboarded?

    Whoa… Sparky-boarded? That’s almost like a Catholic school reach-around.

  15. “Sparkyboarded.” Very nice.

    And of course I’m terrified that now someone will actually use it.

  16. Having witnessed photographic evidence of John’s “baconboarding” of his feline pets, I find the hypocrisy of this thread especially salty.

  17. nisleib @ 12, you may have meant that formulation sarcastically, but that’s almost exactly what Rudy Giuliani claimed. When he was asked if waterboarding was torture, he said it depended on who was doing it.

    Presumably if “good guys” are doing it, it isn’t torture. Unbelievable…

    (P.S. Scalzi: In the last paragraph of the post, I think “I’m winning to believe this guy” should be “I’m willing to believe this guy”?)

  18. I’m with Terry Austin. Let’s waterboard everybody who thinks it isn’t torture until they admit it is. Starting with the president. If it’s not so bad, why would he refuse to undergo the procedure?

    (For the record, it is terrifying even if you know what is going on and trust the people who are doing it to you.)

  19. Trust me on this, if you’ve been through SERE you have absolutely no doubts about waterboarding = torture.

    In fact that’s the whole dammed point. That’s the R in SERE, resistance. You are tortured in training specifically to help teach you how to resist should it happen to you for real. And trust me again on this, even though you know it’s a training drill, it’s still fucking torture. People have died in SERE, not often (and the instructors do everything to prevent it, really, they aren’t sadists – their training may save your life some day), but it happens. That’s why SERE is strictly voluntary.

    “Extra-ordinary means” or whatever the Bush administration chooses to call it these days, isn’t voluntary – and IS a direct violation of international agreement on prisoner treatment – Prisoner of War or otherwise.

    And worse (if that word even applies here) is the damage it is doing to us, to our military, to how our children think. Once things like water-boarding are ok, well it’s the story of the camel, the Arab, and the tent. When water-boarding doesn’t get you the information you need – you move on to other things. Two words here: Abu Garrib.

    We. Are. Becoming. Them. And it disgusts me.

  20. …it’s vaguely embarrassing to have the President and all his pals not know what all the rest of us do.

    They know, they just don’t give a shit. Same with 99.9999% of their followers.

    Actually, I think I’m being too generous. They know it’s torture and that’s just the way they like it.

  21. I don’t know what’s more depressing. That we’re even having to have this discussion, or that the people who have perpetrated this nonsense are still in office.

  22. I think sparkyboarding qualifies as “enhanced, enhanced interrogation.” And, to hook the trendy kids, paint the board black with neon orange flames and call it X-Boarding. Or, “Extreme Asking.”

  23. Dan, you may be on to something here.

    Perhaps, next time Congress requests information from the White House, and encounters resistance from say the VP’s Office, they could implement “Extreme Asking” techniques. You gotta wonder what effect water and electricity would have on a pace maker though. Hmmm, only one way to find out for sure…

  24. Your (if you’re in the USA) tax dollars at work.

    I say we demonstrate on Donnie Rumsfeld who stood before cameras and said that forcing someone to stand for twelve hours wasn’t torture. Because, after all, he stood for that long and even had a standing desk installed. The only major difference being that he could shift weight, change his stance, and walk (which helps pump fluid back up the body).

    Every actual interrogator I’ve ever talked to or heard being interviewed all state that these methods aren’t necessary and that they make real interrogation harder.

  25. As another example of just how far up their own asses the torture defenders have their own heads, this article about WWII interrogators came to my attention today.

    (I hope I did the html code right.)

    The money quote from the story is probably this one from a member of the Greatest Generation:

    “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture,” said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess.

    I don’t think he’s exaggerating. Torture doesn’t work. The most reliable intel breaks we appear to have gotten since 9/11 came through FBI agents using standard law enforcement techniques to earn a terrorist’s trust, establish a rapport, and get him talking. These guys have huge egos, aren’t as smart as they think they are, and are surprised when Americans don’t actually act like the monsters they’ve indoctrinated themselves into thinking we are. (The monsters we act like when we torture people. Jim Wright’s right: we’re becoming them.)

    Anyway, I thought you might be interested in the article.

  26. If waterboarding is not torture, my question would be, why do it? What would be the purpose of using it? Why not show them a movie instead….if it must be painful make it a really bad one. It would be much more cost effective. Better yet, make the prisoners write detailed analysis of Bush inc.’s speeches, that would be perilously close to torture but still not quite at the threshhold, I think.

  27. Remember not so long ago, when G.W.Bush made that little speech that “We do not torture”?
    Such a nice speech. It would have been even nicer if it were true…

  28. Besides all the reasoning and disgust stated above, the thing that gets me is that the method (and torture in general) only very, very rarely gets the interrogators any worthwhile information. It more often sends them on a wild goose chase. Every psych study I’ve ever seen on it states that torture is not a reliable method.

    Which makes me agree with the poster above who said that they are doing it for some kind of sick, sadistic pleasure.

    Ugh! It all makes you want to crawl under a rock.

  29. Ed Morrissey over at Captains Quarters linked to this piece about a week ago and the comments were interesting.

    Here what he said about those comments two days ago

    Last week, I linked to Malcolm Nance’s article on waterboarding and torture in the New York Daily News, and the comment section erupted in debate. Two criticisms got repeated airings in the comments section: that Nance had not properly described waterboarding, and that he had violated confidentiality agreements in discussing SERE training.

    Since last week, I have contacted two sources on the subject, one a SEAL for over 30 years and the other a former SERE instructor. In the next day or so, I will have a lengthy post in response to this issue. It’s safe to say that both sources found Nance’s column appalling, and for similar reasons — and had a lot more to say about the current debate. Keep your eyes open for more on this topic soon here at Captain’s Quarters.

    You can read Captain Ed’s original post and the comments here

  30. In addition, may I suggest a new definition of the term “balls”:

    Balls [ball·s] (n) : That which, when belonging to a Democrat congress, said Congress is unable to find. Example: ‘Oh my God, there’s a vote to ban waterboarding and I can’t find my balls!’

  31. Clarification: From my perspective, in Scandinavia, U.S. politics often seems absurd. Things happen in your country which just couldn’t go unpunished over here.

    I do not profess to understand why the current U.S. administration hasn’t resigned. I do not understand why a U.S. parliament in opposition has not impeached the administration yet.

    There is much I do not understand. Questions like “And why do you think that is?” are such things.

  32. Free Speculation: The U.S. Congress won’t stand united against the Bush administration on the torture issue, because of:

    A) Fear;
    B) Opportunism;
    C) Senility;
    E) Moral confusion;
    D) All of the above.

  33. Free Speculation: The U.S. Congress won’t stand united against the Bush administration on the torture issue, because of:

    Interesting.

    But there are a number of possibilities you failed to consider.

    Why do you think that is?

  34. It’s ironic and sad. We prosecuted Nazis at Nuremberg for “Verschärfte Vernehmung”(same thing, only it was the Nazis).

    The Democratic Congress isn’t going to impeach Bush because A) they can’t muster the votes and B) after they fail to muster the votes, they will be subject to a political backlash. It’s much easier to let the Bush presidency expire than screw up the 2008 elections by attempting an impeachment.

  35. Enlighten us, Frank

    What, with regards to other possibilities?

    Oh, come on. You don’t need me to do that. Put your rational thinkers cap on and come up with some yourself.

    It may require you to think outside your bias, but I trust you can do it.

  36. The U.S. Congress won’t stand united against the Bush administration on the torture issue, because of:

    Setting aside any thoughts about “special interests”, PACs, and Corporations having undue influence, the U.S. and its citizens (wrongly or rightly) seem to value stability above all. While many European governments think little of regularly “throwing the bums out”, in the U.S., when there’s talk of impeachment, we go into an absolute tizzy. The stock markets tank, and talk of “Constitutional Crisis” heads every broadcast.

    The idea of changing governments between scheduled elections scares the shit out of us. I suspect, however, that if we weren’t so close to an election, that calls for impeachment would be getting a little more traction with the latest information.

  37. Olbermann (in a link above) explained why America tortures prisoners. It’s so blindingly obvious, I had not realized it before he said it out loud.

    Study after study for generation after generation has confirmed that torture gets people to talk, torture gets people to plead, torture gets people to break, but torture does not get them to tell the truth.
    Of course, Mr. Bush, this isn’t a problem if you don’t care if the terrorist plots they tell you about are the truth or just something to stop the tormentors from drowning them.
    If, say, a president simply needed a constant supply of terrorist threats to keep a country scared.

  38. Oh, come on. You don’t need me to do that. Put your rational thinkers cap on and come up with some yourself.

    Yes, Frank. I, at least, need you to do that. Because whenever I read that phrase, the asker has an agenda.

    It may require you to think outside your bias, but I trust you can do it.

    Yes, an agenda I sense.

  39. I’m surprised this administration doesn’t just use the Chinese water torture (not actually Chinese I know). After all, there’s no physical damage and what’s so horrible about having nice, cool drops moistening your forehead?

    And compared to waterboarding, it also conserves water!

    /snark

  40. It’s torture, but honestly it’s probably not as effective as cutting off fingers 1 cm at a time then burning the stub to stop the bleeding which is what I would do to someone who was planning on blowing up a building/plane/market full of people. I’d probably go to jail for a long time, but at least I wouldn’t ever be put in the situation where I would have to look at parents in the eye and tell them I let their kids die because “I was better than the guy that killed their kids”.

    There is a big difference between torturing murderers to save lives and torturing to get someone to say their government was wrong on camera. Anyone who doesn’t see that is turning off their ability to reason.

  41. Here’s what’s not funny:

    1. Prior to 2001, every single military manual, bar none, published by the US armed forces regarded the Geneva Convention as absolute and stated in black-letter, plain language, that unconventional warriors, guerillas, and their ilk were covered by the Convention, and were entitled to be treated as POWs and were immune to torture. This is not second-hand knowledge. I have copies stored which demonstrate this point.

    2. Chemical interrogation is cheaper, more accurate, more efficient, and does not implicate anywhere near the level of moral concerns which flat-out torture does. We, as a nation, don’t *need* to sink to levels of barbarism to protect ourselves. This makes the debate particularly unfunny. Why are we using torture and crude, barbaric means to an end when that end can be accomplished quickly, cleanly, humanely and with no lasting physical harm?

  42. No, David, if you did that (cutting off an alleged terrorist’s fingers a centimeter at a time), you would be a sadistic scumbag and you would probably be explaining from your cell that you allowed someone’s kids to die because you got unreliable and unusable information while getting your rocks off, and ended up on a wild goose chase. No, wait, that’s not true: the kinds of people who go that far outside of basic human decency typically don’t have the moral compass for remorse for the consequences of their actions–they either smother it as a psychological defense mechanism or they never had it in the first place, take your pick. You’d probably be defiant, and find someone else to blame for your utter failure. Bleeding hearts, maybe, or bureaucrats, or the inefficient bumblers who didn’t properly pursue your so-called “leads.”

    Morally speaking, torture is reprehensible. Pragmatically speaking, it’s unreliable. Legally speaking, it’s unusable. In terms of modern intelligence-gathering techniques, it’s unnecessary. Any one of those ought to be sufficient for a rational, sane human being to oppose the use of torture without a second thought.

  43. John really clean and to the point post here. I clicked though to the former Master Instructor post and found both the detailed post and the enormous comment thread fascinating, it sucked in my face for well over an hour.

  44. “Wow, you really let the torture proponents off easily. Nance’s third point (linked into your post) was the most relevant:

    If you support the use of waterboarding on enemy captives, you support the use of that torture on any future American captives.

    Maybe that’ll get some of the torture supporters to back off.

    I doubt it, mind you, but one can hope…..”
    _______________________________________

    Let’s all look back and discuss the wars – both official and unofficial – which we have had since 1945 – and point out the enemies who did not torture our prisoners. We may well decide that certain actions are so inimical to our standards that we will not use them regardless, but the old “If we do it they will do it” isn’t too effective since they already do it.

    “The American government prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding prisoners of war.
    So what this Administration is attempting to sell us is that it was bad when the Japanese did it. But okay now!
    Isn’t that special.”
    ___________________________________________

    What is a war crime is defined by the winners so don’t be looking for consistency here – else Air Marshal “Bomber” Harris would have been hanging from a tree too.

  45. There is a big difference between torturing murderers to save lives and torturing to get someone to say their government was wrong on camera. Anyone who doesn’t see that is turning off their ability to reason.

    They also have no sense of Honor, Duty, or Moral Courage.

    Torture is torture, David, no matter how pure your motives. Many people have been tortured to death by sadistic brutal men who truly believed that their actions were justified in the eyes of their Benevolent and Loving God ™. They were wrong, and so are you.

  46. What is a war crime is defined by the winners so don’t be looking for consistency here – else Air Marshal “Bomber” Harris would have been hanging from a tree too.

    Not really. We didn’t try the Nazis for area bombing of cities either. Goering (for example) bombed cities in the Netherlands, Britain and the USSR, but that wasn’t on his charge sheet.

    And, yes, what An Eric said.

  47. In this morning’s Hartford Courant, the following letter appeared:

    “Ned Cabot suffers from tunnel vision [Commentary, Nov. 4, "Drawing Line For Freedom: Congress Mustn't Approve Muskasey"]. He says any form of torture should not be used by Americans. Period! Yet he avoids the real issue: how to deal with an enemy who engages in lethal tactics, such as beheading of innocents, use of airplanes to murder more than 3,000 innocents, and suicide bombings of people who happen to be Americans. Waterboarding, in comparison, does not appear to be lethal.

    I believe the vast majority of Americans approve of any tactic, waterboarding included, that will help prevent a serious terrorist attack.

    Sam Blumenthal”

    I hope that Mr. Blumenthal is deluded in his opinion of what the ‘vast majority of Americans’ believe; I fear that he is not.

    We are losing our souls, here.

    JC

  48. There are at least a half-dozen different things being called “waterboarding”, perhaps more (the demonstrators at the Capital the other day had definitely invented a seventh.) Discussion I’ve had with others indicates that the US military training has used several variations, but without public discussion of which or why changes were made (the latter probably due to deaths in SERE training.) I don’t know of any who would volunteer to undergo any of them again; once, or witnessing it, was enough for all.

    Some of these methods are very very risky to the subject, and some have very little risk. Some of them are definitely torture, and the others are so close to, or on, the line that I don’t think they should be used; if the use is permitted, it must be under very controlled conditions with ample medical care available, etc, and those making the decision to use it held responsible for that use. In many ways it’s a fake execution, and hence already illegal.

    The problem with torture is that it reliably generates answers to questions, but it does not produce reliable answers.

    In today’s world, however, declaring it to be “illegal” (and Congress could have done that, and refused to, whatever it means) would mean that many of our interrigators would spend most of their lives defending themselves from lawsuits alleging that their subjects had been waterboarded, or that they had been threatened with waterboarding, or … lawfare has become a means of warfare by publicity.

    So I would keep it legal, and not use it.

  49. My opinion: Torture is the new Global Warming.

    Almost everyone in the country disagrees with the administration on the subject, and many take every opportunity they can find to point themselves out to each other, providing copious opportunity to call the President stupid, incompetent, or evil. The discussion goes nowhere, and convinces no one of anything they didn’t already agree with.

    Meanwhile, a year from now, we will all have the opportunity to put someone in the White House who agrees with us on waterboarding (and, for that matter, global warming). We’ll see just how important these issues are, relative to all other issues, when the election comes around.

    In the mean time, the constant self-affirmation of the “right answer” crowds out the discussions we should be having. Such as:

    – Since the Geneva Conventions do a poor job of defining torture, and since we find ourselves with several hundred prisoners for the first time in decades, where exactly do the legal lines get drawn? Attempts to draw them in the recent past have resulted in our leaders being accused of “advocating torture.”

    – What is the best way to get information from a captured enemy? The 9/11 Commission Report explicitly stated when its information came from a single interrogation, as opposed to being corroborated across multiple sources. Are multiple sources the key? Are there more efficient ways?

    – How well do we/should we treat our prisoners? These days, we’re hearing all about waterboarding, although we’re not hearing much about how often we actually engage in this practice. Given the administration’s penchant for extending executive power to its limits, could this be a case of “we reserve the right to…” vs. “we do…” Also, when the topic dujour was differnet, we’d hear about how Gitmo prisoners get better healthcare than many of our citizens, and whether or not our soldiers disrespected the state-provided Quouran we give each soldier during their allotted time for daily prayers. Commenters above have compared the United States to the Spanish Inquisition or the Nazis. I’m guessing those regimes didn’t provide their prisoners with health care & daily prayer times…

    If we were talking about these things, the pressure of public opinion might drive our leaders toward making positive change, as opposed to buckling down and hedging the answers to all questions, like Mukasey has done recently.

  50. Since the Geneva Conventions do a poor job of defining torture, and since we find ourselves with several hundred prisoners for the first time in decades, where exactly do the legal lines get drawn?

    The Geneva Conventions do not need to precisely define torture; it forbids any type of coercion.

    Article 17 of the Third Geneva Convention states: “No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.”

    As a result, even the highly touted interrogators of PO Box 1142 referenced by Eric earlier in this thread were in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions. Even more so since the people they were interrogating were “protected persons” as defined by the Geneva Conventions whereas the current crop of captured Islamists are not covered by the Geneva Conventions.

    Are the Geneva Conventions really the rules we want to govern our actions with regards to this enemy?

  51. Frank: Are you saying the WWII interrogators applied “physical or mental torture, other form[s] of coercion… threat[s], insult[s] or… unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind”? Is there some basis for that allegation that I missed in the article I cited, or is there some other information you’d like to link us to?

    Furthermore, are you saying that we should apply more protections than required by the Geneva Conventions when you raise your last question? I think that the Geneva Conventions are sufficient, frankly. Or was your last question intended to be snark on some level?

    The rules that I want to govern our actions with regard to any enemy are:

    1) That we behave in a manner consistent with our highest ideals and the principles on which this country was founded;
    2) That we behave in a manner that acquits us well when future generations look at what we have done;
    3) That we behave in a manner that produces usable, reliable results (torture, as someone noted above, produces answers, but no guarantee of accurate answers–torture victims in 17th century Salem, for instance, confessed to things that are now known to be violations of physics, chemistry and biology);
    4) That we behave in a manner that produces results which can be used within the legal system should the courts be a useful tool in protecting American interests.

    I sincerely don’t think any of those expectations are unreasonable.

  52. Are you saying the WWII interrogators applied “physical or mental torture, other form[s] of coercion

    You misquoted; it’s “nor any other form of coercion”

    Or was your last question intended to be snark on some level?

    No snark. Just asking the question.

    I sincerely don’t think any of those expectations are unreasonable.

    Of course not. And I don’t either.

    But I tell you this right now: if a Beslan school incident ever occurs on US soil, it will not just be the loss of the childrens lives that results. People will be screaming for internment camps.

    And that will be a true disaster.

  53. Frank, you didn’t answer the question. The question, really, was whether you were accusing the soldiers in question of being war criminals, a charge which I think is fairly offensive and shouldn’t be idly leveled. Is there evidence that they used any of the means prohibited by Article 17 or not?

    For all the problems I may have with modes of police interrogation that produce false confessions, the bottom line is still that local and Federal law enforcement officers are able to solve and prevent crimes using interrogation techniques that do not involve torture or even a violation of civil rights. And I’m not necessarily suggesting that alleged terrorists have Constitutional protections (that depends entirely on their citizenship and where they’re initially detained). What I’m saying is that there’s a vast choice of interrogation strategies available that fall far short of anything prohibited by Article 17 or by fundamental notions of human decency. Indeed, the only reason we’re even discussing torture is a conceptual failure caused by overabundance (not paucity) of imagination–some people appear to believe that al Qaeda members are inhuman super-soldiers or elite villains out of a Bond movie, and that they therefore can’t be influenced by anything as mundane as psychology. The truth, far more simple, is that these guys are human beings–they have egos, families, hopes, fears, pride, vanities, confederates, insecurities, guilts, regrets and all the rest of it.

    Our leaders are telling me these guys won’t talk if you pretend to be impressed with their accomplishments? That they won’t respond if you hint that they’ve endangered their friends or families back home? That they won’t correct you if you feign ignorance? That they won’t panic if you tell them they’ve been betrayed? I don’t believe it. And these are just the techniques that your down-home county police detective uses on hardened killers in your own neighborhood. You might have to tweak the techniques, but you don’t have to pin them down and simulate drowning. They’re a bunch of ambitious, idealistic thugs with oil money, not SPECTRE agents with razorblade hats and garotte wristwatches.

  54. The question, really, was whether you were accusing the soldiers in question of being war criminals, a charge which I think is fairly offensive and shouldn’t be idly leveled.

    I absolutely do not think they were war criminals. Nor do I think our interrogators today are war criminals.

    What I’m saying is that there’s a vast choice of interrogation strategies available that fall far short of anything prohibited by Article 17 or by fundamental notions of human decency.

    Perhaps you are right. But to me it seems pretty clear that article 17 of the 3rd Geneva convention bans all forms of interrogation. That unless the subject is volunteering information on his or her own, we can not use any method whatsoever to extract intelligence. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s the way I read it.

    And I am of the opinion that that is too extreme a restriction.

    Indeed, the only reason we’re even discussing torture is a conceptual failure caused by overabundance (not paucity) of imagination–some people appear to believe that al Qaeda members are inhuman super-soldiers or elite villains out of a Bond movie, and that they therefore can’t be influenced by anything as mundane as psychology.

    I don’t think is the case at all. It is quite clear that the vast majority of interrogations are conducted in precisely the manner you describe. It is also the case that the US military is banned from using extreme techniques such as waterboarding. In fact, waterboarding is specifically banned by the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

    But let’s be clear on one thing, Congress had two chances, once when Republicans were in control and once when Democrats were in control to specifically ban waterboarding; make it illegal; and they passed.

    In fact, the only reason why waterboarding is illegal for the US military to use is because when congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act, they specifically banned any technique not authorized, or deemed illegal by the Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

    So Congress once again punted and left it up to the military to define the authorized techniques. The military chose to ban waterboarding, but they didn’t have to by law.

    Now there are two things to note here: one is this only applies to interrogation of the enemy, which means we can still do this to our own soldiers in situations like SERE. And the other thing is that this technique does not ban any non-military intrrogators. In other words, Congress has not made waterboarding illegal. So it was disingenous to say the least to ask the candidate for the country’s top law enforcement official to declare something illegal for which there is no law making it illegal. Do we really want the cops and prosecutors making up the laws? I don’t think so.

    Our leaders are telling me these guys won’t talk if you pretend to be impressed with their accomplishments?

    I think you are exaggerating what the discussion is all about. No one is arguing that such techniques should be the norm. And all evidence points to the fact that they are not the norm. However it is true that the majority of people who have been briefed on the situation are unwilling to take such techniques off the table for extreme situations.

    As far as we know, as far as what is in the public domain, waterboarding has only been used three times, the most famous instance of which involved the 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed who gave up a number of al Qaida operatives. Most interrogators say that while techniques like waterboarding are useful for breaking a subjects initial resistence, that it is not effective for long-term interrogation. However, once you pass that barrier, an interrogation specialist can then employ more subtle techniques that have a high degree of success.

    Despite all of this, ABCs Brian Ross, Richard Esposito & Martha Raddatz reported that in 2006, when General Hayden took over the CIA, he asked for and received permission from the White House to ban the use of waterboarding by the CIA. Presumably this means that to use the technique, there would need to be a Presidential “finding” for each case in which it was deemed necessary to employ its use.

    And I’m OK with all of that.

    I would not be OK with our government using torture, including techniques such as waterboarding, as Standard Operating Procedure.

    But I, like most in Congress, recognize that there are potentially cases where time is of the essence or the circumstances so dire, with the potential threat so enormous, that it may be necessary to do whatever it takes to get the information required. As I mentioned before, preventing a Beslan school-type incident would have a high priority. And there is no doubt in my mind that it scenerios like this that keep the counter-terrorism folks up at night.

    And despite what Mr Nance says (whose predigree with regards to his claims of authority are highly suspect: (see my initial post in this thread)), of all the “extreme” interrogation techniques, waterboarding seems the most benign.

  55. What I don’t get is why they bothered with the dinosaur bones to begin with. I mean if it were me, I’d say God created the world with the bones in it. Never were no big stinkin’ reptiles. Ever. Just the bones. Because God likes bones. He gave a whole buncha creatures bones, and everybody ends in bones.

    Bones, bones, bones. God just likes bones. Who are you to argue?

    I think the only reason they bother with the whole dinosaur exhibit is because they know kids love dinosaurs.

  56. So here’s the real question: is torture against US law? Then if so, your trainer needs to be prosecuted for torture.

  57. JB:

    Participation in his program is voluntary, and I expect a court would not rule that something is torture if one willingly submits to it.

  58. Pints of water in the lungs? Umm… I call bullsh*t. I would think having your prisoner dead or in CCU would be self-evidently counter-productive.

    Maybe this guy really did this training, but I found it hard to believe that -as a training exercise- Navy pilots have their lungs filled with pints of water. Pilots are kind of expensive you know.

  59. Rob:

    The dude testified in front of Congress about it. So if you’re going to call bullshit on him, you’ll also have to call him a perjurer. Have fun with that.

    (yes, late response.)

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